Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lining and airways of the respiratory tract. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Pertussis is spread by:
This infection is most common in infants and children. People at most risk are those who:
Symptoms usually begin within 3-12 days after exposure. Cold-like symptoms can last for up to two weeks. A dry, hacking cough usually follows, which progresses to severe coughing spells. The illness usually lasts six weeks, but can range from three weeks to three months. In severe cases, the following can occur:
Treatment includes antibiotics. To help reduce vomiting and dehydration, patients may be advised to eat small, frequent meals and drink plenty of water. Infants may need to be hospitalized.
The vaccine is given as an injection, usually into the arm or thigh.
All children (with few exceptions) should receive this vaccine. DTaP (for children) and Tdap (for adolescents and adults) protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. The regular immunization schedule (for children and adults) is as follows:
For children aged 4 months to 6 years who have not yet received the vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following catch-up schedule:
|Doses||Minimum Interval Between Doses|
|First and second dose||4 weeks|
|Second and third dose||4 weeks|
|Third and fourth dose||6 months|
|Fourth and fifth dose||
Children seven years and older and adults who have not been vaccinated should also be vaccinated. The choice and timing of the vaccine depends on how old you are and if you have received a dose before.
People who meet the following criteria should also get the vaccine:
Most people tolerate the vaccines without any trouble. The most common side effects are:
Uncommon symptoms include:
Acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol) is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medicine may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with your doctor.
Most people should receive their vaccinations on schedule. However, individuals in whom the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits include people who:
Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have:
Isolating those with any contagious disease has long been the main approach to prevent its spread. It is essential, for example, to keep people with pertussis at home until the illness has run its course.
If you have come in close contact with someone who is infected, you may need to take antibiotics.
In the event of an outbreak, all people who may have been exposed should be brought up to date with the vaccination. It is important to protect infants by isolating those who have the infection. Diagnosing the disease as quickly as possible can help control future outbreaks.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
National Immunization Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Network of Immunization Information
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2009. Ann Intern Med. 2009;150:40-44.
Free CDC immunization resources. American Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/36/flu_kit_resources.pdf. Accessed February 2, 2007.
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Program website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/default.htm. Accessed February 2, 2007.
Immunization issues. National Network of Immunization Information website. Available at: http://www.immunizationinfo.org/immunization_issues_detail.cfv?id=96. Accessed February 2, 2007.
1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5701a8.htm. Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.
10/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Prymula R, Siegrist C, Chlibek R, et al. Effect of prophylactic paracetamol administration at time of vaccination on febrile reactions and antibody responses in children: two open-label, randomised controlled trials. Lancet. 2009;374(9698):1339.
Last reviewed November 2009 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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